Children and the Psychological Price of Overachievement

Children and the Psychological Price of Overachievement

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Children and the Psychological Price of Overachievement


The issue of whether parents are too hard on their kids has been debatable for years. The subject started to present itself more as a problem when the Jon Bennet Ramsey case happened. The performing arts are where the problem of “pressure parents” seems to be the most prevalent and problematic. When does being there for the children become too much? When does “what’s best for the children” become the worst possible thing for the children?

In the dance world, what goes on backstage to a performer is masked by the way the dancer carries them self on stage. The pressure that comes from a parent, particularly a mother, can be almost unbearable to a performer. Some parents try too hard to give to their kids what they could not or did not have when they were young. Parents try to relive their dreams of being the dancer or prima ballerina through their daughters and sons. Parents should not push their children to extremes.

In the article, “ Psychological Price of Overachievement,” by USA Today, they say that there are parents who push their kids too far. They tell their audience, parents and adults, the pressures and the outcomes of the pressures that can be put on the children from their parents. The article is trying to provoke thought in the audience to have them re-evaluate their parenting methods or what will be their parenting methods. The main concern is the kids in this case.

The pressure sometimes builds so high that the dancer becomes unhappy and feels the need to do whatever it is to keep their parents happy. This can include developing an eating disorder, such as bulimia, or depression. As a dancer I saw all of these things first hand. Being backstage all that is heard is the voices of the few parents who are just telling their kids over and over that they need to be the best and perform the best out of the whole group of 100 or more people. When the parents would finally leave, many of the girls backstage with me would get so nervous and anxious about their performance and pleasing their parents that they would then go vomit in the bathroom.

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Many times these children fall under the category of overachievers. The problem with most overachievers is that they end up not liking what it is that they are trying so hard to do such as dancing. These children become unhappy and often doubt their abilities, which can lead to a feeling of being a failure or not good enough to be out there on stage. These feelings lead to depression. The children who are being pushed by their parents may “ doubt their abilities and find that success often does not bring happiness” (USA 15). These children may feel that they are never good enough because of the extremely intense pressure they feel from their parents. When there is such pressure dancers feel that they have to prove themselves over and over. The dancer can reach a point where even “ when they reach their goal, it seems as though they’re faced with the prospect of having to prove themselves all over again” (USA 15). I personally experienced this state of mind with a fellow dancer while competing. We had won gold at regional competition but all she could think of was how she messed up or how she could have been better. Immediately after, she thought of how we all needed to improve for the following performance or competition. She never seemed to be able to be satisfied with what she accomplished.

Parents need to be aware of how hard they push their children. There can be physical damage that could occur to the dancer. When parents are hard on their children, a lot of the time the parents are also pushing an idea of what the perfect dancer should look like or move like or behave like in public. This causes the child to lose their identity and their self in what their parent has to say. The child then will take on an identity that is not their own. Often times some girls will develop bulimia or anorexia in order to maintain the dancer body that their parents have instilled in them to be ideal. Even though this stereotype of a dancer is completely false and is unattainable, parents still will push their dancers to have this stereotype for a body. Though anorexia is the most common eating disorder among dancers, in my experience, I saw a lot of girls with bulimia. With having bulimia, the girls were able to trick their parents into thinking they were eating and also trick the dance instructors. The teammates, however, usually knew about it because we all spent so much time together. When we would spend night and day together and share rooms with one another, we would find out about the binging and purging when either the pressure got too much and the girls told their stories, or late at night we would hear them in the bathroom. When in dance class we do hear about dieting and maintaining a healthy body. Healthy bodies according to dance instructors and to many dancers though are not frail bodies and weak muscles. The bodies we were to have were strong yet lean and full of energy to perform even without the extra boost of adrenaline that comes with competitions. When we were told to diet, all we were to do was watch how much sugar, calories, and carbohydrates we took in and eat healthy fruits for a quick energy boost. The night before a competition, we were to eat pasta for the necessary energy for the following day of fierce competition. This was the healthy way to eat unlike the way so many girls chose to eat due to the pressure that their parents put on them.

Pressured dancers often have a misconstrued ideal of the perfect dancer and what their abilities are expected to be. The pressure builds so much that they re-evaluate all of their abilities and feel as though they are never good enough or that they have to keep appeasing their parents. Even when they are successful, due to the stress that was added from their parents, they are never happy and feel as though there is always improvement that needs to be made. The girl on my dance team felt and acted like this. The stereotype of a dancer is often glamorized by the media but is really put into effect by the parents who think that is the true dancer. Parents need to be aware of how hard they are pressuring their children and remember that the well being of the child is more important than any ideal or thought or dream they have for their child.

Work Cited

“Psychological Price of Overachievement.” USA Today Magazine April 1996: 15
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